From the classic, omnipresent hot dog and gyro stands to the new wave of hipster food trucks, street food is tempting and convenient and has that certain gritty appeal. A little too gritty, perhaps? Health and safety concerns don’t need to turn you off of street meat (and veggies) altogether. The next time you want to order lunch from a roving kitchen, line up at one of these businesses with organic and vegetarian options and eco-conscious operations.
Organic Carts NYC
GustOrganics, the world’s first USDA certified organic restaurant, has expanded into the food truck business. Beyond what most healthy, sustainable eateries can say, at Organic Carts NYC, 100 percent of the ingredients used are organic. You can order wraps, empanadas, hummus, salad, and soup; and beverages include lemonade, fair trade coffee and tea, and filtered tap water in biodegradable cups—avoiding the waste that comes along with plastic bottles. All packaging, in fact, is environmentally friendly, and carts are equipped with solar panels in order to heat food with renewable energy.
The inaugural cart has staked out a spot at Park Avenue and 53rd Street, but GustOrganics CEO Alberto Gonzalez hopes to multiply the number of carts in 2011 and beyond.
A fresh, mobile take on Korean BBQ, Korilla offers meats, veggies, kimchi, and rice in the form of tacos, burritos, and chosun bowls. For those who crave meat, know that the pork and chicken are free of hormones and antibiotics. The beef is USDA Choice Grade, so it might be better quality than your typical street meat, but it’s not organic. For vegetarians who could never understand their friends’ unbridled ravings about Korean BBQ, every dish here comes with a tofu option—and the tofu is homemade and organic, so there’s no need to worry about low-quality or GMO soy products. Korilla’s “wild mountain” vegetables, which include mushrooms, flowers, roots, sprouts, and ferns, are organic as well.
The Korilla BBQ truck parks for lunch and dinner at a different locale each day of the week, ranging from Midtown down to the Financial District.
AsiaDog isn’t exactly a truck or cart, but it is a portable hot dog operation where, for a dollar extra, you can spring for an organic beef or vegetarian hot dog. Inspired pan-Asian toppings include seaweed flakes, kimchi apples, mango sauce, and sesame slaw. Not everything here can be considered healthy, but at least you’ll have healthier options than at your typical hot dog stand.
Besides its new brick and mortar shop at 66 Kenmare Street in Nolita, AsiaDog makes frequent pop-up appearances at the Brooklyn Flea, Central Park Summerstage, and other locations.
La Cense Beef Burger Truck
La Cense is a cattle ranch in Montana that sells most of its beef through online orders, but the company has hit the streets of New York, offering burgers and sandwiches from its truck. All of La Cense’s beef is from grass-fed cows that are not given hormones or antibiotics. Offering the animals nutrients through natural grazing rather than a grain diet makes the final meat product lower in fat and calories, and higher in Omega-3 fats and beta-carotene. The operation is also much more sustainable than your typical factory farm, so if you have a hankering for a burger, this mobile kitchen offers a conscious way to indulge.
The truck parks in Manhattan, often on Wall Street or Barclay Street, and announces its location on Twitter daily.
Good to Go Organics
Good to Go carts make it possible for urban dwellers to satisfy cravings for a backyard barbecue, offering grass-fed beef burgers from Kinderhook Farm in the Hudson Valley, and a variety of organic hot dogs and sausages from Applegate Farms in New Jersey. Vegetarian dogs and sausages are an option, too, but be aware that they are the processed, high sodium kind that you find in the frozen aisle of the grocery store. Toppings include organic cheese, organic onions, and organic sauerkraut, and whole wheat buns are available too. In addition to the hot food, Good to Go stocks snacks and beverages from health-conscious brands like Honest Tea and Annie’s Homegrown.
Good to Go’s three carts can be found in Central Park and at Chelsea Piers.
This all-vegetarian Israeli food truck is the roaming version of Taim Falafel and Smoothie Bar, a permanent fixture in the West Village named after the Hebrew word for “tasty.” The falafel is gluten free and cooked in oil that’s free of trans fat, but keep in mind that falafel is still a fried food that should be consumed in moderation. Healthier options include quinoa salad, hummus with whole wheat pita, and 100% fruit smoothies. All dairy and egg products are clearly marked so that vegans can avoid them.
Taim Mobile parks on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, publishing its whereabouts via Twitter.
Thiru Kumar’s food cart won a Vendy Award in 2007 for its thin, crispy dosas with all-vegan fillings. The vendor/chef makes the South Indian rice-and-lentil crepes from scratch, pouring batter separately for each order while a long line forms. South Indian expats, NYU students, and anyone who works in the area, whether they’re vegetarian or not, agree that the dosa truck is one of the best hearty lunches in the Village. For street food, Kumar’s dosas are exceptionally fresh, healthy, and thoughtfully prepared, and everything on the menu is $6 or less.
Join the crowd at this popular spot on the south side of Washington Square Park from 11:00 to 4:00, Monday through Saturday.
After becoming popular in Los Angeles, the Green Truck is becoming a permanent New York fixture in spring or summer 2011. The business takes its “green” commitment seriously: the kitchen is powered by solar energy, used vegetable oil is repurposed as truck fuel, food scraps are composted at farms where the food originally came from, and utensils and packaging materials are all recyclable or biodegradable. In terms of the food, Green Truck serves up sandwiches, tacos, and salad made from all organic ingredients. The homemade veggie burger or hummus will satisfy vegans, while meat eaters can try the wild-caught fish or organically raised chicken in the form of tacos or a wrap.
The Green Truck makes appearances at special events, and will soon be stationed in the West Village.
This new business hasn’t actually secured a street vendor permit yet, but as soon as it does, the plan is to fuel the truck and kitchen with used vegetable oil. The truck will serve up high-quality burgers (from organic, grass-fed beef) and hot dogs (from a local sausage maker) with all of the Chicago-style fixin’s. Avocado fries provide an interesting alternative to your typical sides. Burgers, dogs, and fries are still not the healthiest choice, but if you are going to indulge, Snap offers a better—for you and the environment—option than a conventional fast food joint or hot dog stand.
For now, you can only find Snap at special events; when it gets a street permit, Twitter will tell you where to track down the truck.
Photo of Korilla BBQ by Dennis Crowley via Flickr